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Connecting Europe’s underserved communities to broadband

Roger Burks's picture
The benefits of broadband Internet are well-documented: for each 10-percent increase in penetration, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) can increase by as much as 1.5 percent. In addition, broadband Internet brings citizens access to new job opportunities, health services and possibilities for digital engagement with their government.
 
Broadband Internet can help bring jobs
to underserved areas, boosting
economic prospects.
However, citizens of the European Union (EU) who live in rural and economically disadvantaged areas have little access to broadband Internet, and therefore miss out on the wide range of opportunities it offers. Today, only 18 percent of rural households in Europe have access to these services.
 
As a result of these gaps and challenges, the European Commission is partnering with the World Bank and others on a new “Connected Communities” initiative. This large-scale project will connect towns and cities to broadband partnerships and operators, offering critical advice and specific business models to finally bring fast Internet to underserved communities.

Can Open Data boost economic growth and prosperity?

Amparo Ballivián's picture

What interventions are needed by governments - and by the World Bank - to stimulate and support the realization of the economic benefits of Open Data for everyone?  How do we prioritize what kind of data is needed?  These were some of the simmering questions that were posed at last Wednesday's World Bank Live event.  A collaborative effort among World Bank global practices and units – Transport and Information & Communications Technologies (ICT), the Development Data Group (DECDG), Open FinancesExternal and Corporate Relations, and others – this global policy dialogue event served as an opportunity to listen in on leading experts explaining and debating the latest evidence of the economic benefits of Open Data and how it can be applied to advance socioeconomic growth in the developing world.

From the short videoconference presentations we heard from five country officials, we learned that Open Data is already making an impact.

Examples of Open Data's use and impact in India, Russia, Macedonia, Ghana, and Mexico
We first heard from Rajendra Kumar, Joint Secretary (eGov) at the Department of Electronics and Information Technology of India.  "Ever since India launched its Open Government Data Platform, we've witnessed more government participation and interest – across ministries and state governments," stated Kumar.  He also pointed to an often underappreciated result of open data programs: increased data sharing among government agencies.

"Open Data is a major source for growth in Russia, especially for Internet and IT companies," commented Ekaterina Shapochka, Advisor to the Russian Minister of Open Government.  She also added that Open Data could help increase the quality of government services to its citizens.

Using Open Data to drive innovation, collaboration and change in India

Vikas Kanungo's picture
Open Data has the potential to be a game-changing tool in poverty reduction and economic growth. The World Bank has been actively encouraging governments to become more transparent, more accountable to their citizens, less susceptible to corruption and better at delivering services.  

We often consult various partners – including governments, organizations and other implementers – on Open Data and its critical role in economic development and growth. The World Bank’s team of information and communication technology (ICT) and open data experts help explore the potential for forecasting national and global trends, while also unlocking opportunities for innovation and improved performance. These consultations serve as a crucial starting point in planning, implementation and correction of many government, private sector and civil society initiatives.

Since 2012, the Bank has organized a series of trainings on open data tools and online resources for users in government, economic research institutes, media, civil society, academia and the private sector. More than 3,000 stakeholders have been trained already in 10+ major cities of India. There is need to take this agenda forward especially in the low-income states where exposure to the Bank's resources is lower.

Open Data for economic growth: the latest evidence

Andrew Stott's picture
One of the key policy drivers for Open Data has been to drive economic growth and business innovation. There’s a growing amount of evidence and analysis not only for the total potential economic benefit but also for some of the ways in which this is coming about. This evidence is summarised and reviewed in a new World Bank paper published today.

There’s a range of studies that suggest that the potential prize from Open Data could be enormous - including an estimate of $3-5 trillion a year globally from McKinsey Global Institute and an estimate of $13 trillion cumulative over the next 5 years in the G20 countries.  There are supporting studies of the value of Open Data to certain sectors in certain countries - for instance $20 billion a year to Agriculture in the US - and of the value of key datasets such as geospatial data.  All these support the conclusion that the economic potential is at least significant - although with a range from “significant” to “extremely significant”!

Is Open Data a goldmine for development?

Oleg Petrov's picture

Open Data could be a “Swiss Army Knife” for modern government - a multi-use tool that can be used to increase transparency and accountability, to improve public services, to enhance government efficiency and to stimulate economic growth, business innovation and job creation. 
 
The economic growth opportunity has certainly caught imaginations around the world. The Economist recently likened Open Data’s commercial potential to ‘a new goldmine.’ The McKinsey Global Institute estimated potential economic benefits of at least $3 trillion a year globally, and a recent study for the Omidyar Network by Lateral Economics suggested that, for G20 economies, Open Data could help increase output by $13 trillion cumulatively over the next five years. 
 
Other studies have suggested figures which are lower but still mouth-watering, especially for economies emerging from recession or facing anaemic growth. These are topics we will discuss at a World Bank-sponsored event on July 23, titled “Can Open Data Boost Economic Growth and Prosperity?” 

Matching development challenges with tech solutions in the fight against extreme poverty

Sarah McCue's picture
The goals of multilateral development agencies, United Nations and World Bank Group are laser-focused on the post-2015 development agenda, calling for transformative change by eradicating extreme poverty and raising economic prosperity for all.  This vision for a new era in development is rightly bold and ambitious, but cannot be delivered without fully embracing the transformative power of technology and innovation, including information and communications technology or ICT. 
 
Most would agree that technology solutions exist for most every seemingly intractable problem.  Yet often our greatest challenge is to match the problem with the solution.  In my various “technology for development” and trade promotion roles with the United Nations and World Bank, it is so clearly evident that government leaders know what problems they need to solve, but are simply unaware of the technology solutions available to them. Even the most highly informed development experts are not aware of the technologies being produced for their particular area of expertise, and technology firms are often unaware of the vast and specific challenges developing countries face. 
 
Thus, it is critical to first identify specific, not general challenges in areas such as access to capital, business creation, countrywide connectivity, education and training, employment, environmental protection, government administration, health, housing, hunger, infrastructure, pollution, population growth, trade expansion, waste, water scarcity, and women’s empowerment.  These are but a fraction of problems facing the developing world.
Photo: flickr, courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (http://ow.ly/zjGTn)

A global information society: are we there yet?

Samia Melhem's picture
Gender and inclusion
must be more
integrated into global
information and 
​communication
technology
​(ICT) strategies.
The concept of a global information society is one of the most discussed and misunderstood “Big Ideas” of our time. While we’ve made gigantic strides toward connecting the world through information and communication technologies (ICTs), we have not attained that goal.
 
Over the last decade, ICTs have contributed to globalization, shaped economies, transformed society and changed our history. Companies that didn’t exist in 2003 – including Facebook and Twitter – are now essential components of media strategies and contribute to job creation. Broadband drives economic development across the world, and there are more than seven billion mobile cellular subscriptions.
 
Despite this meteoric change, we’re not quite there yet. While billions of people are already connected to these systems and opportunities, we need much more collaboration to bring about an information society for everyone.

Pursuing job creation, citizen engagement and government efficiency through ICTs in Nigeria

Lyudmila Bujoreanu's picture
Nigeria's Ministry of Communication Technology is
advancing a wide range of ICT initiatives,
​including a National Broadband
Development Plan. 
Nations cannot be competitive, innovate and generate tomorrow’s jobs without technology and digitally literate citizens. Similarly, organizations like the World Bank cannot achieve their objectives without fully utilizing the power and potential of technology. Here at the World Bank, we’re striving to reduce the extreme poverty rate to no more than three percent and boost income growth of the world's poorest 40 percent by 2030. These goals cannot be achieved without fully embracing the transformative powers of technology and innovation.  

Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population (approximately 174.5 million) and the continent’s biggest economy (more than $500 billion in annual GDP). It is also the center for a wide range of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) activities, from policy to practice – many of which are supported by the World Bank.

Since the establishment of the Ministry of Communication Technology in 2011, the Nigerian government has made notable progress in advancing its ICT agenda. The government has catalyzed significant efforts in the area of policy and regulation, with an ICT Policy developed in 2012, a National Broadband Development Plan developed in 2013 and an e-Government Strategy now in the works.

The transformative promise of the Maker Movement

Eva Clemente's picture
All around the world, an increasing number of individuals calling themselves “makers” are transforming the “Do-It-Yourself” culture. The nascent Maker Movement, as this digital fabrication community is named, has started to show a transformative impact by merging the potential of the Internet (bits) to physical things (atoms) in a highly open and collaborative fashion.
 
3D printers
Examples of 3D printers.
Chris Anderson, the former Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, suggests we could be on the cusp of a new industrial revolution given that we all sit on chairs, drink coffee from cups and shelter under a roof. The Maker Movement is gaining traction from the apex of the political sphere – the White House – as well:  on June 17, President Obama proclaimed the National Day of Making, with actions to support Makers across the country.
 
The Maker Movement has a wide variety of economic and societal benefits. It spurs innovation by democratizing sophisticated technology, empowering people to produce complex designs or create rapid prototypes. It is also transforming the landscape of education by promoting student enrollment in courses that help them pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, including at the University-based FabLab in Nairobi. Moreover, Maker spaces are urging cities to evolve from mere mass garbage production centers into true innovation factories, creating entrepreneurial solutions to urban challenges, like the Smart Citizen low-cost sensor kit developed in FabLab Barcelona to measure air quality.

A new Toolkit to help develop national broadband strategies

Sergiu Conovalu's picture
The world of information and communication technology has changed dramatically over the past decade, evolving from a simple transmission path for information into an enabling platform for countless personal, social and business uses. To keep up with this rapidly increasing usage and growing demand, today’s networks are steadily shifting from narrowband to broadband. Consumers are using broadband networks to access the Internet at speeds up to or exceeding 100 Mbit/s over wired connections, and they are increasingly using broadband-enabled mobile phones too for a wide range of activities.
 
The digital divide that was once measured in terms of differences in access to communications is now measured in terms of differences in quality of access.

A new resource from the World Bank, the Broadband Strategies Toolkit (http://www.broadbandtoolkit.org), offers advice to policy-makers and other stakeholders on how to develop a national broadband strategy. Based on expert research and collaboration that began in 2011, the final pieces of the toolkit were completed earlier this year.

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